Happy birthday, Constitution
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, the oldest instrument of national government in force in the world celebrated its 226th birthday - The Constitution of the United States of America.
School children must study it during September 17 - 23, Constitution Week, but what of the rest of us?
This document, which we may alternately ignore and then vociferously invoke, did not just happen.
Go with me to a hot Philadelphia in late May of 1787: Meeting behind closed doors, the 55 members were pledged to secrecy and windows nailed shut. No one could open a window to catch a drift of the deliberations. The room was hot, stagnant and smoke-filled. It was the hottest summer in memory, with record flies and mosquitoes.
Delegates traveled by horseback and carriage, arriving from Virginia, New Jersey, Georgia - all 13 colonies.
Fifty-five men were out of sorts and bent on having their voices heard and their opinions adopted.
Once under way, the delegates realized the weakness of the Articles of Confederation. A new document was in order - but what? George Washington rose and addressed the Convention in a brief but immortal speech, urging them to 'raise a standard' of the best government they could devise and then trust in this fact, 'The event is in the Hands of God.'
What kind of men were these who travelled hundreds of miles in many cases, with few travel conveniences?
The average age of these dedicated statesmen was 43 years old. The youngest, Captain Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, was 26, while Dr. Ben Franklin of Pennsylvania was 81. Of the 55 delegates, 34 were lawyers, eight had signed the Declaration of Independence, six had signed the Articles of Confederation, and nearly half were Revolutionary War veterans. Three delegates were doctors and two were clergymen. The remaining members were planters, educators, financiers, judges and merchants. All held some type of public office.
Georgia's own William Few was the only member to represent the yeoman farmer class, which comprised the majority of the country's population.
Other Georgians were William Houston, Abraham Baldwin and Captain William Pierce. Fifty-two of the 55 Framers of the United States Constitution were Christians, including Anglicans, Calvinists, Methodists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and one Quaker.
After the required number of 38 men had signed, the Convention adjourned with prayers of praise. George Washington later wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette: 'The Constitution appears to me, little short of a miracle.'
This past Tuesday, Sept. 17 may seem just like any other day. It is not. It is a day to be honored by renewing our knowledge of the United States Constitution as well as those often called upon Bill of Rights.
Fly your United States flag with pride, read the document and realize once again that we live in the greatest country in the world. A country with the most powerful tool of government.
Happy 226th birthday U.S. Constitution!